Wing Commander Royd Martin Fenwick-Wilson AFC

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wing Commander Fenwick-Wilson AFC

canada

There can be few commanders of the squadron who’s tenure of command could have been as varied as that of Wing Commander Fenwick-Wilson.  

Royd Martin Fenwick-Wilson was born in Greenwood British Columbia, Canada.  He in listed in 1934 and was appointed acting pilot officer on probation in the Royal Air Force on Friday August 24th 1934. His first posting was to No.14 (Bomber) Squadron based at Amman, Jordan in September 1935. At the time the squadron was primarily undertaking patrols during the Syrian disturbances. The squadron was equipped with the radial engined Fairey Gordon, these robust two seat fabric covered bi-planes were put to good effect during in the hot inhospitable conditions.  Fenwick-Wilson served for three years with the squadron before he returned to England in January 1939 to take up residences as CFI Upavon. Within three months he was posted to No.6 Flying Training School based at Little Rissington, Gloucestershire as an instructor. On Monday 24th July 1939 he was on the move again, this time to No.600 (City of London)  Squadron based at RAF Hendon on the outskirts of London. The squadron was equipped with the twin engine Bristol Blenheim Mk.I fighter. Again Fenwick-Wilsons stay was brief, on Friday September 1st 1939 he was posted to No.12 Flying Training School, Grantham, Lincolnshire as an instructor. This all grass runway aerodrome had opened in 1916 and would be Fenwick-Wilsons home for the next 23 months.  In September 1940 came promotion to squadron leader, followed in 1941 of the award of the Air force Cross. 

Squadron Leader Fenwick-Wilson, an officer with a varied experience of service flying, has been a flying instructor for two years, latterly as Officer Commanding No.2 Squadron.  His exceptional ability, both as an instructor and an administra­tor, has maintained a very high standard in his squadron.  His personality and splendid qualities of leadership have inspired all those under his command to emulate his example to the great benefit of the school.

This was endorsed by the AOC, No.21 Group, on 14 January 1941:

This officer’s devotion to his flying instructional duties merits recognition.  Strongly recommended.

The citation as submitted to Air Ministry Honours and Awards Committee differs little from the original recommendation:

Squadron Leader Fenwick-Wilson, an officer with a varied experience of service flying, has been a flying instructor for two years, latterly as Officer Commanding No.2 Squadron.  His exceptional ability, both as flying instructor and an administrator, has maintained a very high standard in his squadron.  His personality and splendid qualities of leadership have inspired all those under his command.

On Sunday August 2nd 1941 Wing Commander Fenwick-Wilson AFC was posted to No.22 Operational Training Unit based at Wellsbourne Mountford  for conversion to the Vickers Wellington. The training lasted less than a week, on August 13th Fenwick-Wilson arrived at No.405 RCAF Squadron based at RAF Pocklington, Yorkshire to assume command .

No.405 RCAF Squadron was the first Canadian squadron to form in Bomber Command on April 23rd 1941. Equipped with the Merlin engined Vickers Wellington Mk.II the squadron was part of No.4 Group RAF Bomber Command.  The previous commanding officer of No.405 squadron, Wing Commander Peter Gilchrist DFC had failed to return from a raid on Brest on July 24th, on Royd’s arrival the squadron was being temporally commanded by Squadron Leader Walter Keddy DFC  “B” Flight commander, these two would become firm friends 

??????????????????????

Briefing No.405 RCAF Squadron. Wing Commander Fenwick-Wilson is 2nd from left standing.

It was not to August 22nd that the new C/O undertook his first  operation, he joined the crew of Sergeant Farnborough on a raid against Mannheim. This was followed on November 15th when W/Cdr Fenwick-Wilson took a crew to attack Emden. The seaplane base at Borkum was visited on December 15th. A week later the important port of Wilhelmshaven was successfully attacked.   On January 22nd  W/Cdr Fenwick-Wilson recorded his 5th operation, the target was Bremen. His Wellington was carrying a 4000lb blast bomb. The Operational Records Book records “ Bomb dropped with devastating result and terrific  flash”  The previous operation to Bremen on the 18th  sadly resulted in the loss of a crew skippered by the popular “B” Flight commander Squadron Leader Walter Keddy DFC. While on route to target Wellington Mk.II Z8329 LQ-L suffered starboard engine failure resulting in the Wellington crashing into the English Channel, there was only two survivors. A faint W/T transmission was received back at base.  Fenwick-Wilson ordered a number of crews aloft to try and locate the stricken crew, the C/O joined the crew of Pilot Officer Robson sadly the crew and Royd’s friend were not located in the freezing conditions. The two survivors were picked up by a RN destroyer.  February started with a Royal visit, His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent visited the squadron on the 1st. Wing Commander Fenwick-Wilson and his two flight commanders Squadron Leader J Fauquier  and Squadron Leader  McCormick toured the station with their royal guest.  A close inspection of a Wellington was carried out on the bitterly cold tarmac followed by a tour of the slightly warmer airman’s quarters before His Highness was invited to the officer’s mess for refreshment.   

A daylight attack on the “TOADS” was carried out on the 12th February, six crews lead by the squadron commander were briefed to attack the Battleship steaming up the English Channel. Weather conditions were less than ideal and visibility was almost nonexistent with a blanket of 10/10th cloud making locating the Battleships impossible, all the crews returned with their bomb load. 

??????????????????????

In the Canadian newspapers!

On February 27th 1942 Wing Commanders Fenwick-Wilson AFC occupancy as squadron commanding officer came to a conclusion. His temporary replacement was “B” Flights Squadron Leader McCormick however he was replaced by “A” Flights Canadian commander Squadron Leader “Johnnie” Fauquier RCAF within a matter of days.

His next posting would see him back across the Atlantic to the USAAF base at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio.  From March Fenwick-Wilson was attached to the USAAF Production Engineering Section, Bombardment Division, Materials.  The Materiel Command, headquartered at Wright Field, was responsible for the procurement of airplanes and equipment in production quantities and for sustaining an accelerated program of testing and development. During this period Fenwick recorded an interesting array of US built aircraft  he had flown, these included the P40F Warhawk, P51 Mustang, B17 Fortress and B24 Liberator, also the B23 Dragon, B25 Mitchell and B26 Marauder.

The attachment finally came to a conclusion on  October 21st 1943 when Fenwick was posted back to England and No.10 Operational Training Unit based at Abingdon, Oxon.  His stay was brief, within five days he was posted again, this time to No.1657 Heavy Conversion Unit based at RAF Stradishall. No.1657 CU was equipped with the four engined Bristol Hercules powered Short Stirling Mk.I & Mk.III, this was a massive step up in power and size from the Wellington.  Wing Commander Fenwick Wilsons stay was longer than most. (I have found no mention of him in the 1657 CU ORB), During his stay  the unit was commanded by a ex 218 tour expired skipper, the rather authoritarian Wing Commander Beverly  Ker, he was not alone two of the senior instructors  Squadron Leader Roy Spear DFC RNZAF and Flight Lieutenant James Neilson DFC RAAF were also ex 218 Squadron.  Fenwick-Wilson carried out a number of training flights at No.1657 Con.Unit his last on February 5th with Flying Officer Dyson on a 4 hour cross country in Short Stirling EF189. He had flown a total of 11.35hrs dual and 11.40hrs solo, his flying assessment was sign by Wing Commander Ker, the report recorded “Average”! 

On completion of his conversion Fenwick-Wilson was attached to No.218 (Gold Coast) Squadron based at RAF Downham Market, Norfolk. The date was February 6th 1944.  The squadron was equipped with the Short Stirling and commanded by Englishman  Wing Commander William Oldbury DFC.  Fenwick-Wilson did not take over the squadron immediately, but observed first hand the running of a front line “heavy” bomber squadron. There was limited operational activity in February and in early March 1944 “A” Flight commander Squadron Leader John Overton led a detachment of crews to RAF Tempsford for SOE operations during the moon period. March would also witness the squadrons move from RAF Downham Market to RAF Woolfox Lodge, Rutland.  On March 9th a day after the squadron’s move Fenwick-Wilson officially assumed command of the squadron vice Wing Commander Oldbury DFC who was posted to HQ Bomber Command.  It would be over a month before Fenwick-Wilson operated when he accompanied Flight Lieutenant Phillip Brentnall on a mining operation to Texel, this was operation No.7.  Operation No.8 was undertaken on May 11th when again Fenwick-Wilson accompanied one of his senior crews, Australian Flight Lieutenant Thomas Webster to mine the waters off Cherbourg

During early May 1944 it was decided that 218 Squadron would be used to augment 617 Squadron for the forth coming spoof diversionary raid on the eve of D-Day. This decision was made due to the formers familiarity with both GEE and G-H systems. No.218 Squadron was, at the time, the only front line heavy bomber squadron fully operational and trained within Bomber Command to use this equipment. Apart from the installation of an additional GEE set no other major aircraft modifications were carried-out. The Air Staffs opinion was that the crews of 218 Squadron were already skilled in precision flying and highly trained in the use of both GEE and G-H, it was deemed therefore that 218 Squadron could complete the task handed to them satisfactorily without extensive training.

On May 19th, HQ Bomber Command issued instructions to 218 Squadron, based at R.A.F Station Woolfox Lodge, Rutland, to commence timed training flights. Six experienced senior crews with two reserves were selected. On May 20th training commenced under the leadership of Wing Commander Fenwick-Wilson, A.F.C. Within the short space of eleven days 119 training flights had been flown, and furthermore, in that short period of time the squadron had reached the required standard of navigational and precision flying that would be required. Crews who operated during this period simply recorded within their Log Books, ‘Special Local Flying’ or similar mundane entries. Little did these crews realise that they were ready to undertake probably one of the most important operations of the war. The speed with which the squadron reached the stringent operational requirements confirms the very high standard of both the Air & Ground crews. It also pays tribute to the very special leadership qualities of the squadron’s Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Fenwick-Wilson, A.F.C.

On June 9th Fenwick-Wilson was aloft again, he was accompanied on this occasion by Pilot Officer Ron Ecclestone  to mine the waters off Le Havre, this was followed by a bombing operation to the railway yards at Mondidier with Aussie Flight Lieutenant Robert Stirling on June 17th.  In July the squadron was informed it would be on the move again and would finally be converting to the Avro Lancaster within a few weeks. The move was accomplished by the first week of August, the squadrons new home would be RAF Methwold, Norfolk.  On the night of August 9th the squadron carried out its first Lancaster operation, the target was Fort D’Engles.  It must have been a hectic time for the squadron commander !

Wing Commander Fenwick-Wilson carried out his first Lancaster operation on August 15th with Flight Lieutenant Douglas Haggis and crew , this late afternoon raid was against the German fighter base at St.Trond.   The crew were forced to returned early as the port inner engine failed, sadly the crew of  Flight Lieutenant  Haggis would be dead within 10 days.  It would be over a month before W/Cdr Fenwick-Wilson was operational again, this time it was against the German garrison at Boulogne on another daylight.  Flying with Australian Flying Officer Noel Hibberd  the crew dropped their all HE load on the resilient defenders.  No further operations were flown until October 2nd Fenwick-Wilson records in his Log Book “Observing GH Bombing”

The final operation flown by Fenwick-Wilson is recorded in his Log Book as being flown on October 18th in Lancaster “U” against Stuttgart. There is however some confusion between the Log Book and the Squadron Operational Records Book.  The squadron attacked Bonn on the 18th and Stuttgart on the night of 19/20th.  On neither raid is the commanding officers name recorded, this could of course be an error on the part squadron diarist.  Lancaster “U” was flown by Flying Officer John Knight on the 18th and Flight Lieutenant Jack Arbury on the raid against Stuttgart on the 19th.  Within 3 days Wing Commander Fenwick-Wilsons tenure of commanding officer came to a conclusion, he was posted to No.31 Base RAF Stradishall for wing commander training. A posting to No.73 Base RAF Luffenham for further training would eventually  see Royd assume command of No.3  Aircrew Cooperation School at  Gamston on January 17th 1945 and then No.5  Aircrew Cooperation School at Balderton on February 13th 1945.  

I have not managed to locate much information on Fenwick-Wilson’s movement after VE Day, I do know that he visited Vienna post war as a part of the Air Division, Allied Commission.  

Wing Commander Royd Martin Fenwick-Wilson AFC command of No.218 Squadron can best be described as varied. The squadron under his leadership  moved stations three times, converted from the Short Stirling to the Avro Lancaster and undertook one of the most important and complex  operations of WW.II, operation Glimmer. The squadron under his guidance was also instrumental in the on going development and introduction of G-H. None of this would have been as successful without his administration ability, aptitude for planning and leadership, unforgivably all this went unrewarded

Promotions

Air Ministry,
4th September, 1934.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
GENERAL DUTIES BRANCH.
The undermentioned are granted short service commissions as Acting Pilot Officers on probation with effect from and with seniority of 24th Aug. 1934: —
Royd Martin FENWICK-WILSON.

Air Ministry,
27th August, 1935.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
GENERAL DUTIES BRANCH.
The undermentioned Acting Pilot Officers on probation are confirmed in rank and graded as Pilot Officers. 24th Aug. 1935: —
Royd Martin FENWICK-WILSON.

Air Ministry,
4th May, 1937.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
GENERAL DUTIES BRANCH.
The undermentioned Pilot Officers are promoted to the rank of Flying Officer on the dates stated: —
24th Mar. 1937.
Royd Martin FENWICK-WILSON.

Air Ministry,
5th July, 1938.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
GENERAL DUTIES BRANCH.
The undermentioned Flying Officers are granted the acting rank of Flight Lieutenant on the dates stated: —
24th Mar. 1938.
Royd Martin FENWICK-WILSON.

Air Ministry,
13th December, 1938.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
GENERAL DUTIES BRANCH.
Flying Officer Royd Martin FENWICK-WILSON relinquishes the acting rank of Flight
Lieutenant. 22nd Nov. 1938.

Air Ministry,
14th April, 1939.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
GENERAL DUTIES BRANCH.
The undermentioned Flying Officers are promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant on the dates stated: —
24th Mar. 1939.
Royd Martin FENWICK-WILSON.

Air Ministry,
17th September, 1940.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
GENERAL DUTIES BRANCH.
The undermentioned promotions are made with effect from 1st July 1940 :—
Flight Lieutenants to be Squadron Leaders (temporary).
Royd Martin FENWICK-WILSON (34218).

Air Ministry,
8th October, 1940.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
GENERAL DUTIES BRANCH.
Flight Lieutenant Royd Martin FENWICKWILSON (34218) is granted a permanent commission in the substantive rank of Flight Lieutenant. 24th Aug. 1940.

Air Ministry,
1st April, 1941.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards : —
Air Force Cross.
Acting Squadron Leader Royd Martin FENWICK-WILSON (34218).

Air Ministry,
16th December, 1941.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
GENERAL DUTIES BRANCH.
The undermentioned promotions are made with effect from 1st Dec. 1941: —
Sqn. Ldrs. to be Wg. Cdrs. (temp.).
R. M. FENWICK-WILSON (34218).

Air Ministry,
14th April, 1942.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
GENERAL DUTIES BRANCH.
Flt. Lts. (temp. Wg. Cdrs.) to be Sqn. Ldrs.: —
1st Sept. 1940.
R. M. FENWICK-WILSON, A.F.C. (34218).

Air Ministry, 19th March, 1946.
ROYAL AIR FORCE.
GENERAL DUTIES BRANCH.
Retirement.
Sqn. Ldr. (temp. Wg. Cdr.) R. M. FENWICK-WILSON, A.F.C. (34218) (at own request) retaining the rank of Wg. Cdr. 11th Mar. 1946.